Issue #71 of ToyFare revealed many fascinating aspects about the reboot 2002 incarnation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in an article by Keith Allison. From Zodac’s skin color change to Skeletor’s belt design, Teela’s cobra armor, and more!
The page spread illustration is by Ed Benes with colors by Hi-Fi Color. Curiously the artist chose to illustrate Beast Man seemingly without his fur pelt and blue necklace. The creature that Beast Man rides also seems to be a new creature invented by Benes. Stratos exhibits some color choices making it appear as if he has red gloves and a back canister.
Mr. Benes would years later illustrate some covers for DC Comics on “Masters of the Universe” and “DC Universe VS Masters of the Universe” in 2013.
While the article was published in a July 2003 issue, it’s hard to determine when the artwork may have been commissioned. He-Man is sporting for example his signature templar cross on the armor, which was present in the early figure releases by Mattel in 2002 before they updated for the H-symbol (that fans dubbed at the time as the “asterisk” symbol). He-Man’s hair is also modeled after his 80s classic style.
One thing to note is that the figure marked as “Old He-Man” in the article looks to be the 2000 Commemorative version of He-Man (the face sculpt had a squished appearance). ToyFare would reuse the same photo, only mirror-flipped in issue number 134 too.
The article reveals that for the 2002 reboot, Mattel had plans at first to make Stratos black. But opted to change Zodac (now Zodak) instead. The Mattel concept art can be seen in this video “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Zodak”.